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Volume 21 No. 30
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Local MLB ratings throw a sinker

The Cubs are down 17 percent from last year's championship season.
The TV ratings doldrums are hitting local baseball, with 18 of the 29 U.S.-based MLB teams showing ratings declines so far this season.

The poor numbers fly in the face of the “Trump Effect” theory, which suggested that the over-heated presidential race last summer led to higher TV ratings for news networks and lower ones for sports. By the end of last season, 15 of the U.S.-based clubs showed local rating increases; 14 were down.

The Royals are down 37 percent, though their 7.69 average rating is still the best in baseball.
The most surprising drop this year comes in Chicago, where the Cubs’ tepid on-field play is translating to tepid TV ratings. A year after the team’s historic World Series title, ratings for Cubs games on CSN Chicago are down 17 percent to a 3.58 rating so far this season compared with the same number of games last season.

Could it be that the Cubs and its fans are suffering from a hangover after breaking the 108-year championship drought? As a point of comparison, Red Sox games on NESN posted a 20 percent ratings increase in 2005, the year after the team broke its 86-year championship drought.

The cross-town rival White Sox are faring worse, posting the league’s second smallest TV rating (0.83) and tied for the second biggest decline (down 29 percent). No surprise that the White Sox had the American League’s worst record at the All-Star break.

First Look podcast, with MLB ratings discussion beginning at the 4:55 mark:

SportsBusiness Journal reviewed data from all 29 U.S.-based MLB teams through the All-Star break. The Blue Jays in the Toronto market were not included.

On a national basis, MLB games on Fox and FS1 were up a combined 3 percent through the All-Star break. ESPN also was up for the year, fueled by strong ratings for “Sunday Night Baseball,” which were up 9 percent at the break.

Several usually reliable Midwest teams are creating some concern. Ratings for the Royals, sitting at just above .500 at the break, are down 37 percent on FS Kansas City this year — the league’s biggest drop and one that follows a 10 percent drop last season. Still, the Royals’ 7.69 rating is the highest in baseball.

It’s a similar story across the state, where the sub-.500 Cardinals are down 12 percent on FS Midwest, a drop that follows a 19 percent decline last season. The team’s 7.06 rating is the third highest in MLB.

Dropping ratings span the country. In Oakland, A’s games on NBC Sports California are at a 0.59 — MLB’s lowest midpoint rating since the Astros’ 0.39 mark in 2014. Pirates ratings on Root Pittsburgh are down 27 percent — a year after they dropped 21 percent. Both the A’s and Pirates have had disappointing seasons and sat below .500 at the All-Star break.

And Red Sox ratings on NESN are down 19 percent despite a season where the team was in first place in the AL East at the break.

The league’s good news stories are in its two biggest markets. Yankees ratings on YES have posted MLB’s biggest increase, thanks largely to a young team that has the fourth-best record in the American League.

And in Los Angeles, the Dodgers finally have some good news: They have the best record in baseball and the team’s games on SportsNet LA are up 24 percent — even as the RSN still has not been able to gain full distribution in the market. Still, despite posting the best record in baseball, Dodgers games on SportsNet LA are among the league’s lowest rated. This marks the fourth year in a row that the Dodgers’ ratings have been in bottom five at the break.

Another good news story is in Cleveland, where the World Series runner-up has seen its games on SportsTime Ohio increase by 29 percent. Its 7.52 rating is the second highest in the league and the Indians lead the AL Central division.